As AMISOM leaves Somalia next year, will Kenyan forces vacate Jubbaland?

Soldiers from the Uganda People's Defence Force, part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) leave for Uganda after they ended their tour of duty in Somalia on November 08 2015. AMISOM Photo

On October 16, 2011, two battalions of the Kenyan army, numbering 2,400 troops, crossed the border into southern Somalia.

While the ostensible catalyst for the intervention was a spate of high-profile cross-border kidnappings and murders by freelance Somali criminals, a longer-term set of ambitions and objectives underlay the operation, which, according to some analysts, was contemplated by elements of the Kenyan military as early as 2009.

Within the space of five weeks in September and early October 2011, Somali gunmen crossed into Kenya and murdered a British tourist and captured his wife, abducted a Frenchwoman who later died in captivity, and kidnapped two Spanish aid workers from the Dadaab refugee camp.

These events aroused concern about the security situation in Kenya’s Northeastern Province and neighboring Lamu District and the potential consequences for the tourist industry. Three days after the Dadaab incident, Kenya mounted its Somali intervention.

The kidnappings and murders of foreign nationals in Kenya provided the perfect excuse for senior Somali officers and their allies to convince President Kibaki of the need to intervene, even though the raids had been conducted by freelance forces rather than al Shabaab.

So why did Kenya cross over to Somalia?

It’s widely believed that politics and other regional interest contributed to Kenya’s incursion into Somalia.

Then minister for Defense, Yusuf Haji wanted to secure the Junbaland regional state for his kinsmen and control the livestock and other supplies to the army stationed in Somalia.

“ He (Yusuf Haji) wanted to advance the interests of their own Ogadeni sub-clans in Jubaland, to gain personally from the stabilization of trade in cattle and other commodities, to capture the port of Kismayu, and to establish a Kenya-dominated buffer zone south of the River Juba, driving al Shabaab into hostile terrain north of the river,” Centre for Strategic and International Studies revealed in a finding shortly after Kenya crossed over to Somalia.

It added that: “In recent years, Ogadeni interests in Jubaland have been marginalized as al Shabab has established control.”

A year to what is billed as complete move of AMISOM forces out Somalia, will Kenya agree to vacate Jubaland?

It’s important to note that Kenya did not invade Somalia in 2011 under the alliance of Amisom forces; it was only later that it joined the African Union forces. The KDF crossed into Somalia “to secure its borders from Shabab infiltration.”

Even the American and British officials had discouraged the Kenyan government from intervening, arguing that more time should be given to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to clear Shabab of the country.

Kenya ‘s unwillingness to leave Somalia was made public early this year by the Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Macharia Kamau.

He said the Kenyan forces will leave country only when peace was realised, especially in the Southern part of Somalia where Jubbaland occurs and Kenya has an undeclared interest in.

“It is easy to get into peace building in Somalia. But it is hard to get out. This is because of our peace enforcement capabilities,” said Macharia.

KDF has been in Somalia since 2011. Critics have been calling for withdrawal of the soldiers from the troubled country.

The planned withdrawal comes seven years after KDF troops entered Somalia under the on October 14, 2011 in pursuit of Al Shabaab terrorists who had been entering Kenya at will to abduct and kill aid workers and tourists in North Eastern and Coast.

According to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2372 (2017), Kenyan troops will leave Somalia in December 2020 after mentoring Somali security forces to take over control from Amisom.

If the schedule works as planned, all sixteen Forward Operating Base (FOB) occupied by KDF troops working under Amisom will be taken over by Somalia National Army (SNA) and Jubaland Security Force who are currently being mentored to take over security responsibility of their country.

Last year, Kenya withdrew 200 troops from Amisom as part of its share in the 1,000-man strong force in the draw-down authorised by the UN Security Council.

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